The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 81

rushed into the main street of the
village shouting at the tops of their voices that Oda Yorimoto and Hawa
Nisho had been slain by the woman of the sei-yo-jin.

Instantly, the village swarmed with samurai, women, children, and dogs.
They rushed toward the hut of Oda Yorimoto, filling the outer chamber
where they jabbered excitedly for several minutes, the warriors
attempting to obtain a coherent story from the moaning women of the
daimio's household.

Barbara Harding crouched close to the door, listening. She knew that the
crucial moment was at hand; that there were at best but a few moments
for her to live. A silent prayer rose from her parted lips. She placed
the sharp point of Oda Yorimoto's short sword against her breast, and
waited--waited for the coming of the men from the room beyond, snatching
a few brief seconds from eternity ere she drove the weapon into her
heart.


Theriere plunged through the jungle at a run for several minutes before
he caught sight of the mucker.

"Are you still on the trail?" he called to the man before him.

"Sure," replied Byrne. "It's dead easy. They must o' been at least a
dozen of 'em. Even a mutt like me couldn't miss it."

"We want to go carefully, Byrne," cautioned Theriere. "I've had
experience with these fellows before, and I can tell you that you never
know when one of 'em is near you till you feel a spear in your back,
unless you're almighty watchful. We've got to make all the haste we can,
of course, but it won't help Miss Harding any if we rush into an ambush
and get our heads lopped off."

Byrne saw the wisdom of his companion's advice and tried to profit by
it; but something which seemed to dominate him today carried him ahead
at reckless, breakneck speed--the flight of an eagle would have been all
too slow to meet the requirements of his unaccountable haste.

Once he found himself wondering why he was risking his life to avenge or
rescue this girl whom he hated so. He tried to think that it was for the
ransom--yes, that was it, the ransom. If he found her alive, and rescued
her he should claim the lion's share of the booty.

Theriere too wondered why Byrne, of all the other men upon the Halfmoon
the last that he should have expected to risk a thing for the sake of
Miss Harding, should be the foremost in pursuit of her captors.

"I wonder how far behind Sanders and Wison are," he remarked to Byrne
after they had been on

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